Standard Chartered executives held a press confrence at Strand Hotel on February 5 to mark the re-opening of a representative office in Yangon.
Chief executive officer Peter Sands said the opening is planned to “help Myanmar with its reintegration back into the International community”.
The office is in Centrepoint Towers at the corner of Sule Pagoda and Merchant roads. Standard Chartered first established an office in Yangon in 1862 but was nationalised in 1963. The bank returned to maintain a representative office from 1995 to 2004.
“We hope to be able to play a positive role in the future economic development of this country,” Mr Sands said at the press conference.
However, Mr Sands said the venture is only a representative office – and the bank does not yet have a timeframe for commencing business or doing other investments. “It depends on the way the government decides to develop the financial services market here,” he added. “At the moment, we’re focused on opening this rep office. We can’t do onshore banking but it [the representative office] will still enable us to play a supportive role for those who wish to invest and trade with Myanmar.”
Mr Sands said it was premature to speculate on how Standard Chartered would develop its presence in Myanmar. “There are many steps along the way in terms of new legislation, the approval processes and so on, and therefore we’re just focused on getting the rep office started,” he said.
However, Mr Sands acknowledged that the banking system in Myanmar needs to change as the economy develops.
“The banking system here is going to have to change quite a lot as the needs of the economy develop, in terms of the breadth and depth of financial needs, and that will require quite a lot of change in the structure of the banking system, the nature of regulation and what services banks offer,” he said.
Standard Chartered officials – and the press release – were also light about the office’s role. Mr Sands said the office was intended for “building relationships, gathering information and understanding the ways the market is developing”.
He added that Standard Chartered would be ready to assist both government and the private sector with technical assistance or other forms of support should it be requested.
“We hope we can help the domestic banks here in Myanmar, to help operations and businesses that want to do business in Myanmar. And also in dialogue with the authorities, if we can be helpful in bringing technical expertise, we hope we can contribute that as well,” Mr Sands said.
Mr Sands said Standard Chartered was pleased with the progress of Myanmar’s reforms, despite the ethnic conflicts.